When teachers have questions, who do they ask?
For second grade teacher Annalise Carigon, having the support of an instructional coach means there’s always someone ready to provide a fresh, judgment-free perspective.
“When you’re not sure about something or you’re curious about trying something, it can be difficult to openly and honestly go to your peers or superiors with questions,” said Carigon, who regards Erica Philo, an instructional coach and interventionist at Zinser Elementary in Grand Rapids, Michigan, as an ally and mentor. “There’s things she can see in my teaching that I can’t see. She can notice my strengths and notice things that I could try to do differently.”
“I’m a neutral party,” Philo said. “I don’t report on teachers or grade them. I’m building trust, building a relationship, so that teachers aren’t afraid to ask for help.”
In addition to being relationship builders, instructional coaches are an invaluable asset for scaling student-centered practices. Here are five ways instructional coaches help scale personalize learning:
- Due to their unique role and position, instructional coaches have a big picture perspective for a district’s shared vision because they get to see progress at a more intimate level than administrators. This also means that they can provide an additional layer of data/perspective for administrators.
- Instructional coaches co-teach, collaborate and model for educators what practices and approaches look like within a personalized learning environment. Carigon values having someone model for her, with her own students. And the things Philo models for Carigon? They’re driven by Carigon’s own queries and interests regarding personalized learning.
- The support and mentorship instructional coaches provide is aligned to the tenets of personalized learning.
- Instructional coaches can increase the momentum and pacing of personalized learning implementation and student impact because they have more time and space with the teachers to build collegial relationships.
- Instructional coaches are an additional layer of distributive leadership that can speak to the “why” behind a district’s move toward personalized learning, and they help to maintain the transparency of implementation.
“As teachers, we have really high expectations for ourselves. We want the best for our students,” said Carigon. “I know that Erica wants what’s best for our students, too. She’s willing to have hard conversations about best practice, to challenge and encourage me. We need more people in the profession who can be that point person for teachers.”